Getting it right!

I wonder how often I’ve tried to get something right ie a difficult passage of notes in a Wagner opera for instance or giving a talk about AT for a group of new people. The harder I try the more tension creeps in, so AT helps me to recognise this and change my response to the ‘wanting to be right’. If I can come back to the basics of where I am physically, asking for freedom in my neck so my head can be balanced freely on my spine, so my back can lengthen and widen…this is a good starting point.

” You all want to know if you’re right. When you get further on you will be right, but you won’t know it, and you won’t want to know if you’re right ”
( F.M. Alexander)

What the AT can give you is a sense of your own innate individuality in any given situation, by using the principles of  inhibition and direction you can gain more control, balance and freedom in everything you do.

Finding the time!

Are there enough hours in the day to do everything and still have time for the Alexander Technique? The Technique, having been learnt gives you a set of tools that you carry with you all the time, it can become a way of life and not something you have to set hours aside to ‘work at ‘!

The first lessons you have, set in motion a new awareness of self, how you move, how you think and you begin to notice your habits. You will be encouraged to set aside 10-15 minutes a day for ‘semi-supine’ ie lying down which has the effect of quietening your nervous system and helps to let go of muscular tension. The time it takes to learn and embody the Technique varies from person to person.

What I love about AT is that at ‘stressful, high pressure moments’ I can choose to engage my thinking , using the principles that F.M Alexander brilliantly prescribed . Having positive experiences like this proves to me that it absolutely works!

” This means a constant influence in the right direction, leading to change which will prove permanent , for it will become associated with a tendency for the defect or disease to be diminished, and when a given point of change is reached, the undesirable symptoms will disappear.”
The Universal Constant in Living, p85 ,F.M.Alexander

Posture and the AT

The word posture is part of our language and invariably when I tell people that I teach the AT, they respond with firstly pulling their shoulders back and standing/sitting bolt upright and then say ‘my posture is terrible’, ‘I’ve always had bad posture’.
To me the word posture conjures up a static, fixed position, something that is ‘set in stone’. Try this, sit or stand and ask yourself, ‘am I static, not moving? think about it. Do you have a pulse? are you breathing?.
However still you are, you are always moving, rebalancing, you’re never in a set posture and the moment we try to have a good posture we usually tense up in the effort to have and keep it.

One of the best definitions of the AT that I have heard is ‘The Alexander Technique is a study of thinking in movement’ (see ‘Reach Your Dreams’ by Donald L.Weed, ITM Publications)

‘It’s not getting in and out of chairs even under the best of conditions that is of any value: that is simply physical culture. It is what you have been doing in preparation that counts when it comes to making movements.’
( Aphorisms by F.M. Alexander published by Mouritz)

What my pupils say

The principle of ‘inclusive awareness’

This blog is inspired by one of my pupils. He brought his clarinet to play and the lesson evolved into introducing the principle of ‘inclusive awareness’ as something to explore whilst playing his instrument. What is inclusive awareness? In my own words it is knowing who you are, where you are and what you’re doing, sounds perfectly logical and reasonable?

During the lesson I asked him to experiment with different ways of thinking as he played. His feed back was interesting and positive, he sensed that by expanding his awareness to incude himself, his environment, aswell as his playing, seemed to result in playing the clarinet with more ease.
By inhibiting the habit of narrowing our attention and over concentrating, we can  allow ouselves to receive more information via our senses which leads to more freedom both mentally and physically.

Here’s a game/experiment to play with if you don’t play the clarinet!

You have a pile of washing up in the sink

Do you only see the washing up? expand your vision to take in the whole room or as much as your periferal vision will allow
How are you balanced on your feet? is your weight gently dropping through your ankles?
Is your neck free and your head lightly balanced on your spine? you’re not scrunching your neck down and you’re letting your head go forward and up .
How do your hands feel in the water? what do the dishes feel like?
How much or little elbow grease is required?
How’s your breathing? allow your rib cage to move as you let the air in and out.
What can you hear? the sound of the water in the sink as you wash up? any noises in the rest of the room? is the radio on? anybody talking in the background or to you?

The AT gives you the choice to become more aware of who you are, where you are and what you’re doing .
Happy washing up, clarinet playing, computing, walking, cycling, reading………

I ran in the ‘Great Scottish Run’

Last Sunday I ran 10k in the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow, something I never thought I’d be able to do. I have an abiding memory of running around the athletics track at school and being physically ill afterwards so the idea of running anywhere for any length of time was a non starter for me.

Thirty or more years after that unpleasant school experience,with Alexander Technique and workshops with Malcolm Balk at the ready I was confident that I would run and enjoy myself too. The atmosphere on the day was fantastic. There were over 24,000 people taking part in the 10k and the half marathon runs, through the streets and parks of Glasgow. It was perfect running weather,warm, dry, and not a drop of rain.

I’d planned to sprint when I saw the finish line in Glasgow Green and sprint I did, a  grin on my face, fists pumping the air.

The AT has changed the way I think about what’s possible.

28 days to go

Just 28 days to go until Alexander Technique running guru Malcolm Balk (see right) comes to Edinburgh and Glasgow to ‘run’ his ‘Art of Running’ workshops. Malcolm is based in Montreal, Canada and only comes to the UK once or twice a year so this is a rare opportunity to give your running a leg up with one of the sport’s most entertaining and innovative coaches.

Included in the workshop is some one-to-one time with Malcolm as he analyses your running with the help of his video camera. He will then offer some great strategies to improve your technique. By the end of the session he will video you again so you can see what difference you can make in just a few hours.

If you can make it along (or even if you can’t) I suggest you get hold of Master the Art of Running by Balk and Sheilds too. It’s a good read, very insightful and practical.

Get further information about the Scottish workshops here.

To book a place on either of the workshops (Glasgow or Edinburgh) please contact me

The heart of the cello

A great concert for cello fans on Thursday 19th January at the City Halls with the BBC SSO and Andreas Brantelid.
I’m taking part in the post concert coda, playing Villa Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 . Not to be missed.
Get your tickets here

Playing in the orchestra

I’m back with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra this week.

A great programme of de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat plus Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartok. I’ll be needing all my energy and focus for this and AT really helps.

I can think about the chair supporting me and the floor under my feet, while I’m balanced on my sitting bones. Watching the Conductor, listening, following the cello part, breathing, all with a free neck of course.

Get tickets for the concert here

Happy running

I used to hate running, couldn’t understand why people did it. Then two years ago at the Bristol Alexander School, Malcolm Balk (pictured) ran a workshop, excuse the pun.

He is an Alexander Teacher and international running coach. For more information go to Malcolm’s website.

What a revelation, I found it was possible to run without pain and feel light and buoyant too.

Malcolm took video footage of us at the beginning of the session and then at the end, a very useful feedback tool. Alexander himself used mirrors to monitor his progress. I saw that I was over striding, and that my upper body was almost leaning back, against the direction I wanted to go. My ankles and feet were stiff too … not a great look. I was out of breath in no time at all.

By the end of his workshop I  experienced running in a freer, lighter and easier way. I wasn’t putting strain on my joints and I was enjoying myself.

Malcolm Balk will be here in Glasgow and Edinburgh next May and you can book a place on his workshop by contacting me.

Happy running!